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Destination Weddings: Managing Costs as a Guest

Posted May 26, 2014 by Kelley Long in Life After Five


Wedding season is upon us and a new survey from American Express revealed that the cost of simply attending a wedding as a guest is skyrocketing. In just two years the cost to attend a wedding went up 75% to an average of $592. That means if you have three friends getting married this season, you could potentially be shelling out almost $2,000 just to be an honored guest for the nuptials.

Why so much? Well, think about it. People are getting married later, which means by the time they’re saying, “I do,” many have relocated away from their hometown. The tradition of being married in the bride’s home church often means the wedding turns into a destination for everyone except the bride’s family. And even when that’s not the case, couples are opting more and more to get married in a unique location where no one lives – it’s not just Mexico anymore for destination weddings, it’s Florida, Nashville, Mackinac Island, anywhere that you might go on vacation. And the cost reflects it.

When my parents got married in 1972, they had punch, beer and cake in my grandparents’ living room. There was no bachelorette party in Vegas (there wasn’t a bachelorette party at all, in fact, and the “bachelor party” consisted of the groomsmen taking my dad out to the bar after the rehearsal dinner and ensuring he was hungover at his own wedding), the shower was a simple cake and punch gathering at an aunt’s house and that. was. it.

These days getting married has turned into a year-long event starting with engagement parties followed by bridal showers and bachelorette parties. Then there’s the spa day the day before the wedding. All leading up to the actual event which often requires child or pet care and of course, a gift. It’s a rite of passage, a cultural ritual that we all want to be a part of. And Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest only increase the peer pressure to make the event into the most unique, the most creative, the most memorable for guests. The downside is that the guests also bear the burden for this effort in travel costs, gifts, wardrobing, etc. Heck, you can’t even recycle your dresses anymore unless you want to risk a well-meaning aunt commenting on a Facebook picture with something like, “isn’t that the same dress you wore to Sally’s wedding?” (true story)

Which means the importance of planning for these things is even bigger to avoid excessive debt. And being creative with managing the costs of attending these events takes center stage. One way to save big is to manage your lodging costs. Here are a few ideas:

Think outside the block

  • Most brides will set up a block of rooms at a hotel for guests at a special rate, but don’t assume that the rate is the best available. Do your own research with the hotel where the block is set up (the wedding rate isn’t always the hotel’s lowest available rate) and also take a look at other nearby hotels.
  • Consider sharing a hotel room with other wedding guests.
  • Or consider asking the bride and groom if there are any in-town guests who may be willing to host you at their home.
  • Don’t forget about sites like Airbnb and HomeAway, as long as you’re cool staying with strangers.

No matter what, you’re probably going to have to spend some money in order to witness the nuptials of those near and dear to your heart. The best way to plan is to start saving as soon as you hear a couple is engaged – the good news is that these destination weddings often take a year or more to plan, so you have time. Even if the wedding is in your current city, you’ll still want to plan for gifts and other little expenses like a spa day with the bride or childcare for the night of the soiree. Pay attention to your calendar as you’re making spending decisions and make sure weddings don’t become one of those sneaky budget breakers.

About the Author

Kelley Long

Kelley Long is a CPA/PFS and CFP® who believes that the true meaning of financial security means having choices in life. She uses her 15 years of experience in various financial services industry jobs to inform her work as a Resident Financial Planner for Financial Finesse, providing unbiased financial guidance through workplace financial wellness programs. She’s also a volunteer and media ambassador for Feed the Pig and 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. In Kelley’s perfect world, everyone would feel great talking about their money concerns, fears, questions and problems, because then everyone would see that we ALL have those concerns, fears, questions and problems. Kelley lives in Chicago with her husband and their Himalayan cat Miles, where she also teaches BODYPUMP group fitness classes at the Chicago Athletic Clubs.